Following the sexual assault of a Bryn Mawr student at a party on campus last month, the college has initiated a policy of swiping student IDs at the doors of all social events where alcohol is being served. Operated by members of SwatTeam – the student group responsible for regulating parties – the ID scanners provide the college with information about how many students attend each party and which students arrive at what time. To the extent that individuals without Swarthmore IDs are denied admittance if unaccompanied by a student, the ID scanners also serve to limit the number of people unaffiliated with the college at each party.
“Our primary concern is always to provide a safe and healthy environment for all of our students and visitors,” said Beth Pitts, the associate director of investigations for Public Safety. “ID scanners will assist in those efforts. Utilizing scanners provides a measure of accountability we would not otherwise have.”
In case of misconduct at social events where IDs are being scanned, Public Safety could use the data provided by the scanners to assist in their investigations.
“If the person attending the party is a Swarthmore student, their ID gets scanned through the Swat-specific card slot until the ID number of the student comes up,” said Max Hernandez ‘17, a member of SwatTeam. “The ID number is then stored in a drive on the scanner so we basically have a database on who was at each party.”
Though the college has experimented with the ID swiping policy at large parties such as Halloween and the Masquerade Ball, the program has never been instituted on a regular basis. January 30th’s Pub Nite – which took place just hours after the new protocol was announced in an email from Dean of Diversity Lili Rodriguez – marked the first time the scanners were used in a space other than Sharples. Just four days earlier, on January 26th, the college reported the sexual assault of a Bryn Mawr student at a party on campus. According to Pitts, who is leading the investigation, the assault is believed to have been committed by an individual completely unaffiliated with any of the Tri-Co colleges.
Because most visitors to the college are recognizable to only a few people at the parties they attend, it is difficult to hold them accountable for their actions, and this shortage of eyewitnesses presents complications for Public Safety in the event of an investigation. The new ID scanning protocol aims to prevent such difficulties in the future by accounting for all arriving guests.
“All Tri-Co and outside community guests must be hosted by a Swarthmore student, as well as have their state ID to gain access,” said Rodriguez. “If a guest cannot present a valid form of identification, they will not be granted access to the party.”
According to Hernandez, at the entrance to each party, SwatTeam members swipe guests’ state IDs in order to store the information of the driver’s license in the same database as the Swarthmore ID card numbers. In this way, all individuals entering the party can be accounted for regardless of whether or not they attend the college.
But while this policy intends to restrain the number of individuals unaffiliated with the college who would normally attend parties, in the first few instances of its installment, the ID swiping program also turned away many students who attend the college.
“The email stating that IDs were required was sent out late that Thursday, around 5:00 p.m.,” said Hernandez. “Some people didn’t get a chance to see it and just counted on being vouched for, or knowing one of the SwatTeam members.”
Because of the new policies, Hernandez and the other members of the SwatTeam working that night were forced to deny these people entry.
“There was a pretty long line, and a lot of people without IDs didn’t get in,” said Laurie Sellars ‘15, who attended January 30th’s Pub Nite. “There were people trying to come into Pub Nite through side doors because they didn’t have their IDs.”
While situations like these are not expected to recur as the ID scanning policy becomes a more established feature of social events at the college, problems with the system still remain. According to Hernandez, the college’s efforts to prevent non-Swarthmore individuals from attending parties can also be undermined relatively easily.
“If the student is from Bryn Mawr or Haverford, they need to have a host on campus who they can sort of depend on,” he said.
Hernandez’s concern stems from the potential for individuals unaffiliated with the college to approach anyone with a Swarthmore ID and ask them to introduce them to the SwatTeam member as their guest. According to the policy, anyone vouched for and in possession of a state ID could be admitted.
Further complications arose this past Saturday at the entrances of both the Phi Psi Fraternity House and Paces Cafe where SwatTeam members without scanners asked party-goers were to present their IDs and to write down their names on a piece of paper outside of the door. According to members of SwatTeam, Public Safety never delivered any scanners to the SwatTeam during the night.
Without the scanners, the SwatTeam was forced to proceed through a modified protocol where they counted the number of people entering each party manually. This slowed the lines entering parties and led to long wait times at the door.
“I brought my ID because I thought it would be scanned,” said Madeline Conca ’17, who attended parties at Paces and Phi Psi. “When I finally got to the front of the line, I just had to hand my ID to the SwatTeam people. I think they just looked at it to make sure it said ‘Swarthmore College.’”
Still, administrators had a different conception of Saturday’s protocol. Regarding the events of Saturday night, Mike Elias, the faculty director of the SwatTeam as well as the student activities coordinator at the college, said, “scanners were used, but as of right now we only have two scanners – though we are in the process of purchasing three more – so they are allocated to the larger parties first.”
On Saturday nights, SwatTeam members could be regulating any number of event spaces, including Paces, Phi Psi Fraternity, Delta Upsilon Fraternity, and Olde Club. Additionally, according to Rodriguez, any party with more than 30 people in attendance must have a SwatTeam member present who checks guests’ IDs.
Depending on the night, SwatTeam members might be unable to scan IDs at many of the events occurring on campus.
Regardless of whether or not the scanners are present at every party, their installment represents a significant change in safety protocol and is indicative of Public Safety’s increased influence over the college’s Interim Party Policy.
“The scanners will continue to be used on campus,” Pitts said. “Our community’s safety is all of our responsibility.”